Light Reading

Poll: Vectoring to Play Major Role

Iain Morris
UBB Forum News
Iain Morris
9/3/2014
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Vectoring appears to have won plenty of admirers, if the results of a recent poll of the Light Reading community are any indication, with only a minority of respondents believing the technology has virtually no role to play in boosting the performance of copper-based broadband networks.

Just 18.5% of people think operators would do better to invest in fiber-to-the-home networks, or even sweat their DSL equipment without vectoring, than spend money on the so-called ‘noise-cancelling’ technology.

By contrast, more than a third of those participating in the poll have been won over unreservedly by vectoring, agreeing that it enhances the value of each copper connection to which it is applied.

Another 16.9% think operators should use it if they are experiencing severe competitive pressures. That would seem to cover a multitude of European markets, where telecoms incumbents face challenges from cable companies as well as ISPs that have piggybacked on their lines.

Meanwhile, a significant 30.8% of respondents see value in vectoring, but only in certain network and market circumstances. This could point to the fact that vectoring can do little to address the sharp drop-off in connection speed that occurs when loop lengths extend for more than a kilometer.

Indeed, when it announced its launch of vectoring in January 2012, Telekom Austria acknowledged the technology was unlikely to boost broadband speeds substantially on loop lengths of more than 300 meters. (See Vectoring: Some Va-Va-Voom for VDSL.)

Those expressing concern about market conditions may also have been referring to the status of VDSL2 sub-loop unbundling -- whereby alternative operators assume control of infrastructure between street cabinets and customer premises -- in the market in question. Vectoring vendor Alcatel-Lucent has previously admitted that "significant vectoring gains cannot be guaranteed unless all VDSL2 lines in the cable are controlled by the same vectoring system." That means it's better to have one operator controlling all the lines and providing bitstream access to rivals, but vectoring may simply prove to be impractical in markets where sub-loop unbundling has already taken off.

As for the vectoring naysayers, it may be that some people regard the technology as nothing more than a stopgap. Vectoring obviously isn't a way of overcoming the investment hurdles that lie in the way of fiber deployment, but it could mean that operators do not have to confront those hurdles for another few years.

— Iain Morris, Site Editor, Ultra-Broadband

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Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 11:20:13 AM
Re: Not convincing
This is where the finance folks come in. 

Yes, if you just add up all the CAPEX and OPEX over a 20 year horizon - ultimately including FTTH infrastructure -  extending lifetime of copper looks like a big lose.  If you look at NPV, cost of money, depreciation, tax implications, etc... the analysis might look different.

Also, if you're a CEO who's a few years out from retirement, and CAPEX is reflected to your detriment in your comp plan, what are you going to decide?
brooks7
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brooks7,
User Rank: Lightning
9/4/2014 | 10:55:29 AM
Re: Not convincing
Duh!,

I actually argue that it is a CAPEX growth strategy.  I see it is an incremental investment over a short period of time buying yet another set of DSL blades and deeper fiber.   If you make an assumption that you need to get to a Gigabit Access Network, then doing VDLS2 Vectoring and then putting in G.Fast means that you have purchased a large number of DSLAM ports that you are going to toss in the garbage cans in a couple of years.

It is the one thing that people have not talked about in FiOS.  Someone here at LR could follow up with Verizon, but I expect that the Access Spend inside of Verizon is MUCH, MUCH lower than at AT&T.

seven

 
Duh!
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Duh!,
User Rank: Light Sabre
9/4/2014 | 10:04:53 AM
Re: Not convincing
Strongly agree.  Best to think of advanced DSL as an investment deferral (rather than avoidance) strategy. 

Incumbents are going to have to keep revisiting the business case for staying on copper distribution versus overbuilding FTTH.  As Brooks 7 pointed out, FTTC scenarios have a number of practical challenges which tend to negate the CAPEX advantage of hanging on to existing copper.  Also note that copper plant is aging, and at some point, operators are going to have to make rehab vs. replace decisions.

Then there are the market perception issues.  Realistically, I don't see consumers actually utilizing anywhere near the capacity of 100 Mb/s-class links by 2020.   Nor are they likely to see appreciably better latency from PON or DOCSIS 3.1.  But as long as faster is perceived as better, anything less than Gigabit-class access will be a competitive weakness.

 
iainmorris
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iainmorris,
User Rank: Blogger
9/4/2014 | 5:43:45 AM
Vodafone and vectoring
Vodafone Germany's approach is noteworthy - relying on a mixture of vectored VDSL and cable, following wholesale deals with Deutsche Telekom and, of course, its takeover of Kabel Deutschland. Will be very interesting to see how broadband competition shapes up in that market over the next few months.
Ray@LR
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Ray@LR,
User Rank: Blogger
9/4/2014 | 5:40:05 AM
Not convincing
While there are a lot of positives for vectoring, it's not a mass consensus -- my feeling is stil that itrs value is VERY market-specific, with a number of criteria (regulatory, competition, infrastructure, OSS) needing to be considered. 
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